Catholic–And Cosmopolitan–Responses to the Pope’s Gay Statement

July 31, 2013
Pope Francis

Pope Francis

Since starting this blog over 18 months ago, I have never had such a hard time keeping up with Catholic LGBT news and commentary than in the last two days as articles keep popping up about Pope Francis’ statement which was heard around the gay and Catholic world.  Not even the Supreme Court’s marriage decisions in June generated this much electronic “ink.”

Yesterday, we supplied you with the first round of comments from Catholic writers and organizations.  Today we will try to continue that sampling from some of the best that we have seen from Catholics–and one “cosmopolitan” response that you will have to read to the end to discover!

Like yesterday, you will probably notice a range of opinions, though mostly people are positive.  Let us and others know what you think by posting your thoughts in the “Comments” section of this post.

Richard Galliardetz

Richard Galliardetz

One of the common themes of the commentary I read was whether Francis’ change in tone is really significant?  Professor Richard Galliardetz of Boston College, who this year serves as President of the Catholic Theological Society of America,  answered both of those quandaries in a Religion News Service article:

‘This may be a matter of “style” in some sense, but in this case style matters,’ Gaillardetz explained in a statement that echoed the poet Robert Frost. ‘One can appeal to our doctrinal tradition in order to justify moral rigidity and exclusionary attitudes or one can appeal to our doctrinal tradition as a call to be instruments of mercy and compassion. Francis has chosen the latter course and it has made all the difference!’ ”

Mary Hunt

Mary Hunt

Catholic lesbian theologian Mary Hunt was more guarded in her praise of Pope Francis’ comments, noting particularly that the interview in which he made the statement about gay priests also contained a strong denial of the possibility of ordaining women to the Catholic priesthood.  Hunt’s conclusion in a Religion Dispatches essay:

“The proof of whether this off the cuff press conference, following a well-staged week in Brazil, signals real change will unfold in the months ahead. Will there be stirrings of democracy, a Vatican spring complete with líos [translated: "mess," referring to the pope's statement to young people to "go, make a mess" in the world] in every diocese capable of upending a kyriarchal church and letting a mature, diverse community emerge? Will women finally and definitively share power with men in a democratic church? Or, will there simply be a little tweaking of the rules to make sure that a few favored sons who happen to be gay can remain in power?”

One person who is uniquely qualified to comment on the pope’s comment is Fr. Gary Meier, a St. Louis Archdiocese priest, who came out publicly as gay earlier this spring.  In a CNN blog post, Fr. Meier expressed cautious optimism about the news:

Father Gary Meier

Father Gary Meier

“I am optimistic, that our Pope’s comments can lead to greater love and acceptance of the LGBT community. And at the same time, I am cautious – cautious that the change in tone and attitude represented by the Pope’s statement will not lead to a change in theology and doctrine which so desperately needs to change.

“My prayer for the church is that we might take this opportunity to stop causing harm, to stop being judgmental and to become more welcoming; more inviting; more loving towards all people, especially those who are marginalized and ostracized.”

Mary Ellen and Casey Lopata

Mary Ellen and Casey Lopata

Speaking from the perspective of parents of LGBT people, Casey and Mary Ellen Lopata of Fortunate Families welcomed the pope’s statement.  A WHEC.com news story noted:

“Casey Lopata said, ‘This has opened a door. It seems to signal a willingness to dialogue.’

“Casey Lopata says it is reminiscent of something that happened in Rochester 16 years ago.

“ ‘Back in 1997, here in Rochester, Bishop Clark said a mass with gay and lesbian people, family and friends at the time a lot of people weren’t very happy with it and he later wrote an article in the Catholic Courier and title of the article said, ‘Listen, leave the judgment to God’ and that’s exactly what Pope Francis said today.’”

Mary Ellen was quoted in an NBCNews.com story:

“I sense what he is saying is that we are all children of God and we need to treat each other that way regardless of our sexual orientation,” she said. “If that is indeed what he is saying, I think that is a good step forward for reconciling with gay and lesbian people around the world, and also their families.

“Much that’s been said in past years by church leaders has been very hurtful not only to gay and lesbian people but to their families as well.”

Marianne Duddy-Burke

Marianne Duddy-Burke

That same NBCNews.com story also provided the perspective of LGBT Catholics themselves through the voice of Marianne Duddy-Burke, Executive Director of DignityUSA.  Beginning with a quote from Francis’ statement, Duddy-Burke said:

“ ‘If someone loves the Lord and has goodwill’ [Francis' statement] — the reality of that describes an awful lot of LGBT people,’ she said. ‘There are a lot of LGBT people of faith who are working very hard to hold onto their faith and I think it would be important for us to bring our stories to the pope and other church leaders to move this conversation forward.’

“A key step would be bridging the gap between some church leaders who engage in anti-gay rhetoric and their parishioners, many whom support LGBT rights, Duddy-Burke said. Fifty-four percent of Catholics support same-sex marriage, according to a Pew Forum poll released earlier this year.

“ ‘If Francis can be an instrument in healing that divide, we would certainly welcome that and are happy to partner with him,” she said, while noting that only time would tell what impact his remarks would have on daily life.’ “

Sister Marian Durkin

Sister Marian Durkin

The perspective of a pastoral minister who works with lesbian and gay Catholics was offered by Sister Marian Durkin, CSA, in The Cleveland Plain Dealer:

” ‘I appreciate Pope Francis’ compassionate look at homosexuality in the church,’ said Sister Marian Durkin of the Sisters of Charity of St. Augustine. ‘There are gay men in the priesthood, there always have been. And they serve God’s people with great integrity and love.’

“Durkin has worked in a local outreach ministry for gay Catholics for 20 years. She holds an annual retreat for homosexual Catholics and their parents at the Jesuit Retreat House in Parma.

“ ‘I’m delighted whenever there’s good press about gays and lesbians,’ she said. ‘Francis is a breath of fresh air.’ ”

Stephen Pope

Stephen Pope

Portland, Maine’s Press Herald offered the perspective of a theologian who notes the pragmatic effect the pope’s statement can have:

“Stephen Pope, professor of theology at Boston College, said Francis’ comments were consistent with his other efforts to address declining church membership by reaching out to a more diverse audience.

“That approach stands in stark contrast to that of his predecessor, Pope Benedict XVI, he said.

” ‘I think Pope Benedict’s philosophy was to say, “Let them go. We’ll have a smaller church but more pure,” ‘ Pope said. “Pope Francis has sort of adopted this strategy of meeting people where they are and looking for commonality.’ “

Chad Pecknold

Chad Pecknold

Chad Pecknold, a theology professor at Catholic University of America, Washington, DC, noted, in a Baltimore Sun article, that the pope’s statement was not really “off the cuff,” and was, in fact, an invitation to dialogue:

” ‘The message of mercy, I think, is one he is sounding out on every single issue that the culture has identified as one it rejects the church’s teachings on,’ Pecknold said. ‘What Francis wants to say is, “Let’s talk.” ‘

“The pope offered his thoughts in a remarkably open news conference in response to questions about rumors of a ‘lobby’ of gay priests seeking to influence the Vatican. He said he disapproved of any such lobby or influence, but distinguished influence-seekers from priests who might happen to be gay.

“Pecknold said it was important to consider that context when reading the pope’s comments, but he also said the pontiff would have been aware that his comments to international journalists about homosexuality would have been viewed in a broader context.

” ‘We’re going to hear this over and over and over again,’ Pecknold said. ‘The way in which Francis wants to initiate a conversation, the way in which he wants to invite a conversation, is through this message of mercy.’ “

James Salt

James Salt

The youth perspective was offered by James Salt of Catholics United, a political organizing group, in an Agence France-Presse article:

“. . . Catholics United, which has been very critical of Church leadership, said Francis’ comments ‘speak to what every young person knows: God loves gay people, and so should the Catholic Church.’

” ‘Pope Francis’ call for the acceptance of gay priests is a direct repudiation of the backward beliefs of many ultra-conservative ideologues in the Church,’ the group’s leader James Salt said in a statement.

” ‘This statement on gay people, while largely symbolic, is a big step in the right way.’ “

CosmopolitanAnd we close out with a decidedly non-Catholic perspective: Michelle Ruiz, a blogger at Cosmpolitan magazine:

“A lot of arguments against gay marriage and even homosexuality in general point to religion: ‘The Bible says God made Adam and Eve, not Adam and Steve,’ anti-gay groups have been known to say. But now the leader of the Catholic church himself, Pope Francis, is coming out in support of gays. Can we get a Hallelujah?

” ‘If someone is gay and he searches for the Lord and has good will, who am I to judge?’ Francis told reporters yesterday while on an overnight flight from Brazil (for his first foreign trip) back to Rome.

“Francis was responding directly to a question about gay Catholic priests, and his answer is groundbreaking because his more conservative predecessor, Pope Benedict XVI, was so against gay clergy, he signed an official document in 2005 saying homosexual men should not be allowed to serve the church.

“So if Francis is cool with gay priests, perhaps gay marriage has a prayer in the church? “

Francis DeBernardo, New Ways Ministry


Catholic Reactions to Pope Francis’ Comments on Accepting Gay Priests

July 30, 2013
Pope Francis

Pope Francis

Pope Francis’ comments on accepting gay priests has rocked the Catholic world, yet even progressive Catholics disagree on the import of his statement.   Was it just a change of tone, not substance?  Was it too little, too late?  Will he follow through with action or was this statement just for show?

Various commentators took different approaches to the statement.  Here’s  a sampling of some of their thoughts.

Here at New Ways Ministry, we welcomed the statement, seeing it as a sign of hopeful things to come:

“Pope Francis’ statement on accepting and respecting gay priests is a clear sign that this pope will be taking a more conciliatory approach to LGBT issues than his immediate predecessors have done.

“Unlike John Paul II and Benedict XVI, who approached LGBT topics through the lens of sexuality and sin, Pope Francis is signaling a new direction which is based on the Catholic principles of human dignity, respect, and social integration.  Benedict had issued an instruction to bishops not to accept gay candidates for the seminary, a policy that was being considered under John Paul’s papacy.  Both previous papacies were noted for their virulent opposition against LGBT issues.

“Some will say that Francis’ statement is not enough, that he still refers to sins of homosexuals, but I think the important thing is the question of emphasis.   Even if he doesn’t drop the sin language, this is still a major step forward, and one that can pave the way for further advancements down the road.  Change in the church is evolutionary, not revolutionary.  Though this statement is not the change which many of us hope for, that is, the full equality of LGBT people in our church, it is a necessary first step toward that change.   Most importantly, it shows that Pope Francis is open to dialogue on this matter, and not simply follow the harmful obstinacy of his predecessors.”

Rev. James Martin, SJ

Rev. James Martin, SJ

Noted author and commentator Jesuit Father James Martin, had total praise for the pope’s comments, noticing an important linguistic development:

“To my mind, Pope Francis’s brief comment on gays reveals great mercy.  That mercy, of course, comes from Jesus Christ.   And we can never have enough of it.  The Pope’s remarks also are in line with the Catechism, which teaches that gays should be treated with ‘respect, compassion and sensitivity.’  But gays were not the only group to be shown mercy in the Pope’s brief in-flight interview.  The Pope also asked for greater compassion for divorced and remarried Catholics, a group that has long felt marginalized in the church, and called for a “deeper theology” on the role of women in the church.  Today Pope Francis has, once again, lived out the Gospel message of compassion for everyone.
“The lesser-noticed change in the Pope’ revolutionary words during his in-flight interview was, at least according to the translation in the Italian-language ‘Vatican Insider,’ the use of the word ‘gay,’ which is traditionally not used by popes, bishops or Vatican officials.  This is a sea change.”
Equally Blessed LogoEqually Blessed, the coalition of Catholic organizations that work for LGBT justice and equality,  also had strong praise for the pope:

“Pope Francis today uttered some of the most encouraging words a pontiff has ever spoken about gay and lesbian people. In doing so, he has set a great example for Catholics everywhere.

“The pope has rejected the harsh language of his predecessor, Benedict XVI, for a compassionate approach and a pastoral tone. Lesbians and gays are no longer a “threat to civilization,” rather they are people of faith and good will.

“Catholic leaders who continue to belittle gays and lesbians can no longer claim that their inflammatory remarks represent the sentiments of the pope.”

Kevin Clarke, a blogger at America magazine, noted the importance of just a few of the words the pope said:

“. . . Francis may have become the first pope in history to offer a ‘who am I to judge’ response to a question about gay and lesbian people. . . “

But Clarke also urged caution, while at the same time noting the importance of the papal shift:

“His words certainly signal a shift in tone from Rome on gay and lesbians; will they also mean a change in current policies regarding, for instance, gay men in the priesthood?

“His citation of current catechism on the treatment of gay and lesbian people was not revolutionary in any sense; what startles may be the spectacle of a pope saying anything out loud on the matter and stressing the importance of church teaching on the human dignity of gay and lesbian people.

“Francis was also asked why he did not spend much time speaking about abortion or gay marriage during his trip (church teaching is already clear, he said) and about the difficulties of divorced and remarried Catholics. ‘I believe this is a time of mercy, a change of epoch,’ the pope said. He said the group of eight cardinals tasked with reform will explore the issue of whether divorcees can receive Communion.”

Michael O'Loughlin

Michael O’Loughlin

Michael O’Loughlin, who blogs at Religion News Service also questioned whether the pope’s statement is significant:

“I’ve joined the chorus of those praising this truly palpable breath of fresh air in the Catholic Church. Pope Francis is welcomed change in style. How will his bishops here in the US react, especially to the comments about not judging gays, finding roles for women, and welcoming back the marginalized? The Pope, it seems, will lead by example. Will his bishops follow? What concrete steps will Catholic leaders take to change the atmosphere of the church?

“A friend IM’ed this morning, asking if this news was a big step for the church. Yes and no, I said. Yes, it’s certainly huge that a pope has spoken about gays in a nonjudgmental, loving way. The pope’s words may inspire others to alter their own speech and behavior. No, because we wait for change, for signs that this is indeed more than an off the cuff remark. But for now, I’ll stick with yes. Yes, this is hope, and hope is huge.”

Writing in The National Catholic ReporterKen Briggs was decidedly more skeptical about the pope’s comments:

Ken Briggs

Ken Briggs

“If he didn’t mean to suggest a new Catholic teaching on homosexuality, should he have plainly said so? Would that have been in keeping with his image in some quarters as being bluntly honest? Or does he believe that a little dose of mixed signals is justified in order to ease the bitterness that has been swirling around the issue? . . .

“It’s too early in the papacy to know for sure, but worth noting perhaps that the same patina of double speak characterizes the major issues Francis addresses. Is he the “repair the crisis” pope who sees his mission as reviving church spirits before unloading some concrete, contentious re-designs, or a public relations pope whose effort is to recast the profile of Catholicism without following through on vague suggestions that things will substantially change? . . .

“A lot of what the appealing and intriguing pope said could be seen as a plea to keep young people — any Catholics — from crossing the street to the Pentecostal churches known for their warm embrace, empowering of lay people and live-wire worship. While genuine ecumenism is out of fashion and was nowhere to be seen, neither did the pope directly bash the Pentecostal rivals. But the signs of distress over massive defections could be heard in his urgent appeals to wavering Catholics to ‘stay home.’ On that there was no ambiguity.”

Writing personally, William Lindsey, who blogs at Bilgrimage.blogspot.comfelt that the pope’s words did not make up for the years of pain inflicted by church leaders:

“. . . I’m critically aware that for many Catholics, including many LGBT Catholics, the conversation about these matters has now moved light-years beyond the question of whether “homosexuals” . . . . should be included, welcomed, and treated with respect. And so I wonder how we can have a meaningful and honest conversation about these matters, if we pick up this conversation at the point of the pope’s comments and don’t acknowledge what many Catholics have been saying and thinking about these matters for a long time now.
“And there’s also this: for many of us, the actual experience of dealing with fellow Catholics and Catholic leaders who have been intent–quite precisely–for decades now on judging and marginalizing us solely because we’re gay results in a kind of deafness that makes us unable to hear Francis’s liberating, gospel-centered words with much hope or joy at all. Because we’re now so beaten up from our encounter with our church, its leaders, and many of our fellow Catholics, that we’re inured to hopelessness.
“Scars stand between us and our ability to receive a loving embrace from the community that has created those scars across our human lives. Scars cover our ears and make us unable to hear a liberating, hopeful, and joyful message from the community that has created those scars.”

Terence Weldon, at QueeringTheChurch.comnotes that Francis is providing an emphasis that is much needed in church discussions on LGBT issues:

Terence Weldon

Terence Weldon

“Today, he has delivered some thoughts which are more explicitly favourable, insisting that gays should be integrated into society, must not be marginalized or discriminated against, and should be welcomed into the priesthood.  Welcome words indeed. There is in fact absolutely nothing new in this – it’s all absolutely standard, orthodox Catholic doctrine, which contains two parts. There is a compassionate side, directing that we should be treated with respect, compassion and sensitivity, and protected from unjust discrimination, and from violence or malice, in words or in deeds. Then there’s the harsh side, denying absolutely any hope of physical expression of our loves in genital acts. The problem has been that many bishops, and the previous two popes, have ignored or directly flouted the compassionate parts of teaching, focusing exclusively on the harshest bits. Francis is not in any way signalling a shift in actual teaching – but he is introducing some sorely needed balance. That alone is welcome.”

–Francis DeBernardo, New Ways Ministry


Pope Francis Offers Respect for Gay Priests, Signaling a New Papal Direction

July 29, 2013

In what is probably his most gay-friendly statement to date, Pope Francis said that he will not judge gay priests, and he respects their vocation.

Pope Francis on plane

Pope Francis on plane

The New York Times quotes his response to a reporter’s question about gay priests, asked during a press conference on the plane ride back to Rome from World Youth Day celebrations in Brazil:

 “If someone is gay and he searches for the Lord and has good will, who am I to judge?”

This is probably the clearest break with his predecessors John Paul II and Benedict XVI.  Benedict issued an instruction to bishops not to accept gay candidates for the seminary, a policy that was being considered under John Paul’s papacy.

The Chicago Tribune expanded on the pope’s comments on this topic:

“The Catechism of the Catholic Church explains this very well.  It says they should not be marginalized because of this (orientation) but that they must be integrated into society.

“”The problem is not having this orientation. We must be brothers. The problem is lobbying by this orientation, or lobbies of greedy people, political lobbies, Masonic lobbies, so many lobbies. This is the worse problem.”

The pope was answering a question about his statement last month concerning a “gay lobby” in the Vatican, so his reference to lobbies above probably refers to that context.

The Tribune also noted that Francis joked about his “gay lobby” comment:

“You see a lot written about the gay lobby. I still have not seen anyone in the Vatican with an identity card saying they are gay.”

The New York Times expanded on the gay lobby comment, and also allegations of gay trysts happening among staff at the Vatican Bank:

“Reporters on the plane said that the pope had been candid and high-spirited and didn’t dodge a single question, even thanking the person who asked about reports of a ‘gay lobby’ inside the Vatican, and about Italian press reports that one of the advisers he had appointed to look into the Vatican Bank had been accused of having gay trysts.

“Francis said he had investigated the reports and found them groundless. He added that while such a lobby would be an issue, he did not have anything against gays and that their sins should be forgiven, media reports said. He said that while homosexuals should be treated with dignity, using sexual orientation for blackmail or pressure was a different matter.”

Many people have been waiting for a clear message from Pope Francis on LGBT issues, and it seems like this one indicates he will take a decidedly different approach than his immediate predecessors had done.

Some will say that this is not enough, that he still refers to sins of homosexuals, but I think the important thing is the question of emphasis.  While his predecessors emphasized sin in relationship to LGBT people, Pope Francis looks like he will be emphasizing human dignity, respect, and social integration.  Even if he doesn’t drop the sin language, this is still a major step forward, and one that can pave the way for further advancements down the road.

–Francis DeBernardo, New Ways Ministry


Surveys Continue to Show Catholic Support for LGBT Equality

July 28, 2013

polls 1Some recent polls have come up with interesting developments about Catholics and LGBT issues.  The findings are summarized for each poll under the sub-headings below.

Quinnipiac Poll of Virginians on Marriage Equality–Including Catholics

Washington.CBSLocal.com reports that a recent poll from Quinnipiac University found

“Fifty percent of registered Virginia voters support same-sex marriage compared to 43 percent who don’t, with a clear majority of women approving it.”

Among the statistics for sub-groups in the poll were those for Catholics in the state:

“Catholics favored gay marriage 56 percent to 40 percent, while Protestants opposed it 57 percent to 36 percent. Among those who identified themselves as born-again evangelicals, 74 percent opposed it.”

U.S. Catholics Disagree with Vatican on Homosexuality

The above sub-head is starting to sound a little bit like the proverbial “Dog Bites Man” headline because such news is becoming so commonplace.  Yet another poll, this one from the Pew Research Center, shows that U.S. Catholics do not support the Vatican’s opposition to LGBT equality.

CathNewsUSA.com reports:

“While the Catholic Church officially maintains that homosexual relations are sinful, many Catholics in the U.S. have a more accepting view. A recent survey by the Pew Research Center found that more than seven-in-ten U.S. Catholics (71%) say homosexuality should be accepted by society. Just a third (33%) say they believe homosexual behavior is a sin, down from nearly half who said this in 2003. However, fully half (54%) of American Catholics say there is at least some conflict between their personal religious beliefs and homosexuality, with 42% saying there is ‘a lot’ of conflict.”

Are Catholics the Reason for Marriage Equality in New England?

All six New England states have marriage equality laws.  That’s almost half of the 13 states plus the District of Columbia which allow marriage for lesbian and gay couples.  Could the reason be because there are so many Catholics in those states?

The Public Religion Research Institute released a report this year as Rhode Island was enacting marriage equality.  The report notes, among other things, that Catholics, a significant population bloc in those states, also have a strong record of supporting marriage equality:

“New England has a low percentage of groups opposed to same-sex marriage. Only 7% of New Englanders identify as white evangelical Protestants, compared to nearly 1-in-5 (18%) Americans overall. Only 24% of white evangelicals favor same-sex marriage (71% are opposed). Black Protestants, who also oppose same-sex marriage (37% favor, 57% oppose), are also underrepresented in New England compared to the national population (3% vs. 8%). Instead, Catholics (30%), mainline Protestants (22%), and Jews (6%) are overrepresented among New Englanders, and majorities of these groups favor same-sex marriage (57%, 55%, and 81%, respectively). In addition, 1-in-5 (21%) New England residents are religiously unaffiliated, a figure that’s similar to the rest of the country. More than three-quarters (76%) of religiously unaffiliated Americans favor same-sex marriage.”

It looks like Catholics are going to continue to be key figures in marriage equality and other LGBT equality debates for years to come.

–Francis DeBernardo, New Ways Ministry


Equally Blessed Pilgrims Bring LGBT Faith Witness to World Youth Day

July 27, 2013

World Youth Day, the gathering of young Catholics with Pope Francis in Brazil this past week, has garnered many headlines for the pope’s charisma.  LGBT issues have not been mentioned, other than to say that the pope was greeted by protesters who staged a “kiss-in” when he arrived in Rio de Janiero.

Some of the Equally Blessed pilgrims with friends they have met at World Youth Day events.

Some of the Equally Blessed pilgrims with friends they have met at World Youth Day events.

But the real LGBT story at World Youth Day (WYD)has not made it to the major media outlets.  Six young LGBT U.S. Catholics have journeyed to the gathering as pilgrims, sponsored by Equally Blessed, the coalition of Catholic organizations which work on LGBT equality issues. (The four members of Equally Blessed are Call To Action, DignityUSA, Fortunate Families, New Ways Ministry.)

The six pilgrims–Delfin Bautista, Lauren Carpenter, Ellen Euclide, Megan Graves, Jennifer Guterman, Sara Kelley–have been attending the WYD events with other pilgrims, and have been striking up conversations with them to raise awareness of LGBT equality issues.   According to an Equally Blessed press release, Kelley had this to say about the project:

“I’m going to World Youth Day to help start a different conversation about LGBT people in the church, and to offer a different view than the hierarchy’s on how LGBT people can be included. I hope simply to talk to people and to ask questions of the Church’s current teaching.”

The press release also noted:

“In addition to participating in World Youth Day events, the pilgrims hope to meet representatives of other LGBT Catholic groups and possibly participate in a pubic vigil on behalf of LGBT people.”

You can read the entire press release here.

The Equally Blessed Pilgrims:  Delfin Bautista, Megan Graves, Ellen Euclide, Jennifer Guterman, Lauren Carpenter, Sara Kelley

The Equally Blessed Pilgrims: Delfin Bautista, Megan Graves, Ellen Euclide, Jennifer Guterman, Lauren Carpenter, Sara Kelley

While in Brazil, the pilgrims are maintaining a blog about their experiences on the Equally Blessed website.   You can read their reflections by clicking here.  The following are some excerpts:

Delfin Bautista:

“When we think of activists often time the images that come to mind are of a person with a bullhorn leading a chant or a passionate orator giving a speech to set people’s hearts ablaze or the community organizer who brings together all of the logistics for a public education campaign.

“At World Youth Day we’ve encountered many who embody this spirit—people gathering to sing, dance, and exchange stories (through gestures, facial expressions, and other forms of communication when spoken languages differed).  Many reflected physically the joy of being here and of sharing their experience of faith and pride in their countries in very energetic ways.    As I stood in line to finish the process of registering our group, participated in Mass, and during our catechesis sessions where everyone focused on the Bishop speaking, I realized that as introverts we have been invited to step up to the challenge of going beyond our comfort zone to go up to other WYD participants to hand out rainbow rosaries, EB prayer cards, and get to know where people are coming from.  We have been interviewed by the BBC and approached by pilgrims from all over the world who are interested, intrigued, and happy that there is some form of visible lgbt and queer presence at WYD. “

Megan Graves:

“As we continued to pass out and share many of our rainbow trinkets and gifts, many people we delighted to have them, especially the rainbow rosaries! Many of the Central and South American youth that we met we very positive about our outreach, we even had one young woman who spoke only Portuguese translate for us several times.  Also, for me personally, it was wonderful to engage in brief dialogue with those who spoke Spanish, because I wanted to try my best to explain our ministry.”

Ellen Euclide:

 “The atmosphere was one of celebrating multiple identities and connecting across cultures.  We all struggled to overcome language barriers and smiled for pictures with people we had just met.  People were proud of their national identity and sang football chants and church songs, but the excitement came from the feeling of connection, that we have all been brought together by our diverse experiences of the same faith.

“In that atmosphere our identity as LGBT Catholics received a warm welcome.  Lucky for us “LGBT” and “gay” translate directly in both Spanish and Portuguese so many people deciphered our banner and our schpeil and we were greeted with smiles, hugs and even cheers.  Even those who disagreed simply said “hm, well I think differently” and walked away, letting us continue without further discussion.  I had several conversation with Spanish speakers who were very surprised to see us.  Some were cautious, asking if we were associated with a parish, if we were celibate or if we took communion and made sure to ask if the ribbon would identify them as “one of us.”  The majority though were very positive.  One man asked how he could help and took a stack of our prayer cards to hand out, a young Bolivian asked for my email address because he’s wants to work in LGBT rights in his country and said he thinks most LGBT Bolivians go to church but keep their identity a secret and several Spanish speaking Brazilians helped us translate our message and stayed around to explain our banner to other Portuguese speakers.”

Godspeed to our young pilgrims and witnesses for Catholic LGBT equality!

–Francis DeBernardo, New Ways Ministry


The Good, the Bad, and the Ugly on Catholics and Boy Scouts

July 26, 2013

Boy Scouts name rainbowThe Boy Scouts of America’s decision in May to admit gay youth as members has had a lot of repercussions in the Catholic world, where many parishes sponsor Scout troops.  We’ve reported on some of the early and more high profile responses–both positive and negative–that the decision sparked.

Yet, there have been many more responses that developed over the last two months.  We’ve compiled a list of articles about Catholic responses, with each item containing a link to the original article.

You’ll notice that the list contains some references to Catholic parishes which have severed ties to the Scouts because of the new policy.  I’m waiting for a parish to sever ties with the Scouts because they did not extend the new policy to allow gay men to be Scout leaders.  That will be a great day when a parish or Catholic organization decides to take such a stand!

Here’s the list:

1) One Catholic parish in Wisconsin is considering joining a possible alternative scouting organization, to be called the Catholic Scouts of St. George, which will not admit gay youth, reports the Kenosha News.

2) Similarly, a Christian lay leader has formed “OnMyHonor.net,” as an alternative to the Boy Scouts, reports The National Catholic Reporter .  Like the Catholic group mentioned above, it will not admit gay youth.

2) “The change in the Boy Scouts’ membership standard, in itself, does not seem to me to be in conflict with Catholic teaching,” wrote Bishop Kevin Rhoades of Fort Wayne, Indiana, in an op-ed in that city’s News-Sentinel.  Rhoades said he has been inundated by inquiries about the matter.

3) Monsignor E. James Hart, pastor of Saint Elizabeth Ann Seton Catholic Church, Keller, Texas, has cut parish ties with the local Scout troop because of the new policy, reports The Dallas News.  Hart wrote a letter to his parish explaining his decision, in which he stated:

” . . . do you honestly expect me to believe that when the time comes in the life of the Boy Scouts of America that there are 12, 13, 14, 15, 16 and 17 year old boys put together in over-night situations, some of whom with a self-professed same-sex orientation and attraction, that nothing undesirable is going to happen? Would you have me run the risk, and use the souls of the boys involved, some of them likely your sons and grand-sons, as part of the experiment? I cannot. I will not!”

4) The Catholic bishops of Washington State issued a letter stating their support of the Boy Scouts’ new policy, reported the Kitsap Sun.  The letter, in part, stated:

“The Catholic Church teaches that all people are to be treated with dignity and respect. The recent change in the membership policy of the Boy Scouts of America does not affect the teachings of the Catholic Church or the manner in which the Catholic parishes in Washington state conduct the scouting program under their sponsorship.”

5) A Catholic parish in Bremerton, Washington, was one of the first to  sever its ties with the Boy Scouts, sparking Catholics United, a political organization, to deliver more than 5,500 signatures on a petition to Seattle’s Archbishop Peter Sartain, requesting that he support gay scouts. A news article in The Seattle Times quotes Catholic United’s Executive Director James Salt’s comments about the parish severing ties:

“It’s a startling reminder that the Catholic Church is drifting from its long-held teachings against discrimination.”

6) A Knights of Columbus chapter in Bennington, Vermont, will vote in August on whether or not to renew its sponsorship of a local Scout troop, reports The Troy Record.  A local K of C official had already stated that if the Boy Scouts of America allowed gay youth as members that the chapter would end its sponsorship.

–Francis DeBernardo, New Ways Ministry


Group Asks Cardinal Not to Say Mass for Catholic Conference

July 25, 2013

A controversy is brewing in Chicago this week, as the annual national conference of the Courage ministry opens today.  Courage is a Catholic ministry to lesbian and gay people which stresses celibacy, and which sometimes has been accused of encouraging reparative therapy to change sexual orientation.

Cardinal Francis George

Cardinal Francis George

The controversy this week focuses on Chicago’s Cardinal Francis George, who is scheduled to preside at Mass for the gathering.  Faithful America, an organization that describes itself as “a fast-growing online community dedicated to reclaiming Christianity from the religious right and putting faith into action for social justice,” has launched a petition campaign to ask Cardinal George not to preside at Mass because of Courage’s associations with reparative therapy.

The Chicago Sun-Times reports Faithful America’s Executive Director Michael Sherrad explained that the Courage program includes  two speakers who are identified with the reparative therapy movement:

“. . . the forum includes Dr. Timothy Lock and Dr. William Consiglio, who is described on the conference website as a part-time ‘Christian Psychotherapist,’ specializing in the area of Sexual Orientation Resolution Therapy.

‘Consiglio also is the author of the book “Homosexual No More.” Lock’s presence at the conference is being highlighted on the website of the controversial organization National Association for Research & Therapy of Homosexuality [NARTH], which identifies Lock as a member.

“The association’s website says ‘clients have the right to diminish their homosexuality and to develop their heterosexual potential. The right to seek therapy to change one’s sexual adaptation should be considered self-evident and inalienable.’ ”

Courage’s leader has denied that his group has any connection with reparative therapy:

“Executive Director Father Paul Check says the organization provides spiritual support for Catholic men and women with ‘same-sex attractions’ who desire to live chaste lives in accordance with the Roman Catholic Church’s teaching on homosexuality.

“The conference plans to hold a ‘Therapist Seminar’ scheduled for Friday. But Check said while the Courage community has members of the mental health profession, ‘their work for us and with us is not directed towards a change of sexual inclination or desire’ and emphasized that’s not the organization’s mission.”

Sherrad feels that Cardinal George’s appearance at the conference gives credence to reparative therapy:

“. . . priests and therapists will be trained in dangerous and debunked techniques that don’t cure homosexuality but do contribute to suicide and depression.

“By appearing at this conference and celebrating mass there, Cardinal George is implicitly endorsing practices that cost the lives of gay and lesbian youth.”

Sister Maureen Fiedler

Sister Maureen Fiedler

Faithful America is not the only entity opposing the cardinal’s appearance at the meeting.  Sister Maureen Fiedler, SL, who blogs at The National Catholic Reporter, wrote last week:

“Regardless of the Roman Catholic hierarchy’s teachings on homosexuality, Cardinal George should dissociate himself from these bogus and harmful medical techniques.

“In fact, he might tell Courage to get some real courage and cancel the speakers from NARTH.”

In response to the controversy,  Cardinal George sent an email to the Sun-Times, explaining his decision:

 “Courage is an organization of homosexually-oriented Catholics who support one another in their quest for holiness as homosexuals. I haven’t seen their program, but their literature speaks only of spirituality, not of therapy.

“When national Catholic organizations meet, the local Bishop is often asked to offer Mass for them. That’s the only reason I’ll be there. (It’s called loving your neighbor.)”

Cardinal George routinely goes to great lengths to distance himself from any group that supports marriage equality, because, he says, of his adherence to Catholic principles about sexuality.  Since reparative therapy is not endorsed by the Catholic hierarchy or the Catholic laity, he should either avoid this conference or be willing to appear at Catholic conferences whose organizations support marriage equality.  If “loving your neighbor” is what is motivating him to attend this conference, he should show the same love to those who approach LGBT issues from a more progressive perspective.

–Francis DeBernardo, New Ways Ministry


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